Tru-Vue Stereo Viewers

Tru-Vue Viewer Identification

By Tom Martin

There were several different types of stereo viewers made with the Tru-Vue name. This listing is for the two different styles of stereo film strip viewers that Tru-Vue made in the 1930s and 1940s: the Art Deco and the Streamline (the early print viewer and the card viewers that Sawyers made will be discussed in other articles). The following is an illustrated list of the different viewers and the variations know to me. If you have a viewer variation that is not included in this list, please let me know and I will add it.

I am also listing the different box styles, which are not quite as important, but collectors do find them interesting and will sometimes pay a premium to get a box that they do not have. Library boxes and special sets will be covered in another article.

Art Deco

1933 The First Viewer

The first viewer was an all brown plastic viewer with a glossy painted metal face plate and bright screws. Its distinctive Art Deco styling and octagonal lens holders were different than any other stereo viewer previously made. As was customary, the viewer molds were made before the patent was given, so all of the glossy faceplate viewers say “PAT. APL'D. FOR. ”. It came in a dark blue two piece box with no logo or advertising on the top piece, and "Tru-Vue Pictures with Depth" on the bottom piece. This box is not often seen, so I am guessing that only one run was made before switching to production of the World’s Fair viewer.

1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair Viewer

The 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair viewer is the same as the first Tru-Vue viewer with the exception that Tru-Vue’s logo is replaced with the Century of Progress logo and the year 1933. The box is a one piece folding box that is covered with symbols of the Fair, and has an address area on one side so that purchasers could mail the viewer. Because it is made out of thin cardboard it is very difficult to find a box that is not missing at least one endflap..

1933 – 1934 Fred Harvey Viewer

The Fred Harvey Company has operated food concessions in the Grand Canyon Nation Park since before it was a national park. The company approached the new Tru-Vue company and contracted the production of a Grand Canyon film along with a stereo viewer that they could sell as souvenirs at their concessions. The viewers were stamped on the faceplate "made for Fred Harvey" and came in the World's Fair style box with "The Grand Canyon of Arizona" stamped across the top. There was a rumor floating along a few years ago that Tru-Vue had made personalized viewers for people at the World's Fair, but it was most likely started by someone not familiar with the Fred Harvey Company who saw the viewer in the World's Fair style box and assumed that is was made for a Fairgoer. The Fred Harvey viewers were only made for a short period, and are not very common. Tru-Vue later made a Fred Harvey Grand Canyon gift box set with six films and a standard matt finish faceplate viewer.

1934 Century of Progress World’s Fair Viewer

The 1934 Century of Progress World’s Fair viewer is the same as the 1933 C.P. viewer except that it has the new year above the logo on the faceplate. Tru-Vue only made one batch of these viewers before they decided they should be promoting the Tru-Vue brand instead of the Fair, so they went back to using the Tru-Vue logo on the viewers instead of the C.P. logo. The 1934 C.P. viewers are not very common, and are hard to find.

1934 Shiny Faceplate Viewer

These are the same as the first viewer, but came in the World’s Fair style box with no title stamped at the top.

1935 Shiny Faceplate Viewer

The same viewer as first viewer, but now with dark screws and packaged in a silver and black two piece box.

1936 – 1939 Matt Finish Faceplate Viewer

Same style are the first viewer, but now has a brown matt painted faceplate with dark screws and has a patent number listed instead of “Patent Pending”. It came in a silver and black two piece box with a different logo design than the shiny faceplate box had.

The Art Deco faceplates

1933 C. of P.

1934 C. of P.

Fred Harvey

First Viewer

Dark screws

Matt finish


1939– 1947 All Black Viewer

The late 1930’s saw everything turning to a streamlined design (planes, trains, automobiles, coffee pots, etc.) and Tru-Vue was no different. A new design was introduced using a two-part plastic construction that was held together by friction. The first version was all black with a red plastic advance knob. There were three different paint schemes of the logo on the faceplate: no paint, Tru-Vue and lines in white, and Tru-Vue and lines in red.

1947 All Brown Viewer

A little experimenting after World War II in colors produced two batches of all brown viewers; one with red lettering and one with no paint. Both had a red advance lever.

1947 Black and White Viewer

Another experiment was with a white viewer with a black faceplate. These are difficult to find because they are not very common, and they look a lot like the very common brown and white viewer, so are often passed by.

1947? Brown and Green Viewer

I have only seen 3 or 4 of these viewers, and none were in boxes so the date is a guess. The viewer body is a bright green with a brown faceplate and green lettering. One collector thought it might have been a trade show promotion to draw attention. I have not yet seen any advertising for it, so it may have been just another experiment in the change-over years.

1947– 1952 Brown and White Viewer

The last version of the Tru-Vue viewer was the white viewer with brown faceplate (officially refered to as Antique Ivory and Cocoa Brown). Other than the obvious color change, the only difference in this viewer was a slight change in the film advance mechanism (which you can only see by taking the viewer apart). There were several different box designs.

1950? True-View

A company in England (S.E.L.) produced viewers and films in the early 1950's that were very similar to Tru-Vue's under the True-View name. This was only done for a short period of time, then the company stopped making them. The viewer looked very similar to the brown and white viewer although slightly different materials were used.

1950 - 1952 Very Late Boxes

At the very end of the Rock Island plant production, Tru-Vue began packaging their viewers with slightly larger boxes and 4 films inside. They also began producing color films, and would put stickers on the botom of the larger boxes that said "Black and White" or "Color Films" to make it easier for their employees to sort them.

At the same time, they finally began to make Disney charater films which they marketed in a special Disney box (they had the Disney 3D image rights since the 1930's, but only used them once in the Cinderella-1 #204 film with a cardboard cutout of Mickey Mouse).

Streamlined Faceplates

All Black - No Paint

All Black - Red Paint

All Black - White Paint

All Brown - Red Paint

All Brown - No Paint


Black and White - White Paint

Black and White - Red Paint

Brown and Green - Green Paint

Brown and White - Tru-Vue only

Brown and White - White Paint

Brown and White - True-View

For a price list of the Tru-Vue viewers listed here Click Here.

Places to go

[ VTCA Home Page | About Us | Tru-Vue | Tru-Vue For Sale | Other 3D ]

This page last updated 24 June, 2010
Copyright 2004 VTCA, all rights reserved